Is uTest a Scam?

There are some reviews out there from testers claiming uTest is a scam and that you can’t make any money. I’ve also seen a few uTest customers complain about the quality of the testing and uTest’s sales/negotiating practices. These concerns are valid and I can understand why some people have the impression that uTest is not what it claims to be. In order to address these perceptions, we need to look at them from two points of view; The view of the customer, and the view of the tester.

The uTest customer

Complaint #1: The quality of the testing was lower than expected

I have no problem saying that there are a lot of bad testers at uTest. It’s true, there is no point in denying it. These testers only report low-value bugs, they don’t follow instructions, and generally disrupt the test cycle. Sometimes it is because they’re inexperienced testers, sometimes they’re just plain bad. Unfortunately this is one of the downsides of crowdsourcing. To uTest’s credit, they do realize this and are continuously working to improve the skills and abilities of uTesters. They also identify and remove problem testers.

On the other hand there are some absolutely awesome testers at uTest. These top testers consistently provide the customer with excellent service and high-value bugs. uTest does a pretty good job of identifying the strong testers and ensuring that they are the ones working on your projects. Keep in mind that there are literally hundreds of projects, dozens of Project Managers and thousands of testers from all over the world, so every test cycle is going to be different.

So what’s a customer to do? First you need to manage your expectations. Understand the limitations and benefits of uTest and make sure they align with your testing needs. Second, you need to be involved. Yes, uTest is a service, but the quality and success of your project is a direct result of your participation and influence.

Here is an excellent article from Elena Houser on how customers can get the most from their uTest (or any crowdsourced) testing service. It is a MUST read for any potential uTest customer:

Complaint #2: The uTest sales process is shady

In full disclosure, I’m not a uTest customer so I’ve never gone through this process myself. However, I am a uTest TTL (Team Test Lead) and so I have worked with many different customers. I’ve seen customers who are extremely satisfied and those constantly complain. It doesn’t take long before you start to see a pattern.

I really could just do a copy/paste from above. Again, this comes down to having correct expectations and being involved. Customers who follow Elena’s advice will find that uTest’s services are well worth the money and effort. Those who don’t will be disappointed with their results.

Another point worth mentioning is that uTest is a start-up company. They have only been around a few years yet they are growing and changing incredibly fast. In just the last year I’ve seen some impressive improvements. I have no doubt that as the company matures and customer needs and expectations are better understood, the sales experience will improve and mature as well.

The uTest tester

Complaint #1: uTest is a scam

As I mentioned above, uTest is a start-up. The company grew faster than many people expected and as a result it went through some obvious growing pains. Everything about the company was (and still is) evolving. The payment process was still being worked out, bug reporting and evaluation was confusing, and in general the tester experience gave some the impression that uTest was either a scam or just unprofessional.

Admittedly, the first tester interface was terrible. It was slow, buggy, and difficult to use, which is quite ironic for a software testing company. This problem has now been addressed. uTest recently launched their new tester platform and it is so much better (read more here). Their are now several reliable ways for testers to receive payment, and there is an entire team of employees solely dedicated to the welfare of the testers. These are just a few examples of how uTest is working to improve its image and show testers that uTest is a legitimate company and a great place to work.

Complaint #2: You can’t make any money

I recently read a review from a uTester that he had reported 87 bugs but he only was paid for 16 of them. The other 71 bugs were rejected. He felt that bugs were intentionally rejected in order to avoid paying the testers. He’s not the only one to complain that testers are not adequately compensated for their efforts. Fortunately it is because of a few misconceptions.

Testers need to understand the uTest bug payment model. Customers pay uTest a set price for an agreed upon amount of work. It is up to the customer to accept or reject the bugs reported by the testers. uTest then pays the testers for the bugs (and other work) the customer accepted. Since the customer pays a flat fee no matter how many bugs are reported or accepted, they have no financial incentive to reject individual bugs. Bugs are rejected for valid reasons, not to avoid paying for them.

The other important point is testers are not paid for their efforts (there are some exceptions), they are paid primarily for the value they provide. Testers who provide the customer with high-value bugs make a lot of money. Testers who report low-value or “junk” bugs make very little money.

The bottom line is good testers can make good money working at uTest. Poor testers will be frustrated.


uTest is not a scam. It is a legitimate company and an amazing one at that. While uTest is not perfect, most criticisms can be answered if you look at the entire situation objectively.

Reporting High-Value Bugs – Part 2

I originally posted on the uTest Forum.

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the reasons why a uTester should focus on reporting high-value bugs. That led to some fantastic discussion and a spin-off thread about reporting every bug you find. Before you continue, you should go back and review those threads to get caught up on the topic.

In this Part 2, we are going to look at “HOW” you can find and report high-value bugs. This is a popular topic at uTest and there are many threads, webinars, and crash courses available (There are links to some of that material below). This post is intended to complement those resources and help us continue to improve our testing skills.

I’ve teamed up with fellow TTL and uMentor, Allyson Burk for a double dose of testing goodness :) We have some great ideas for you, so let’s get started!

Finding high-value Bugs

Focus on One cycle at a time (Allyson Burk)

I find there are two approaches to the workload at uTest: 1) accept every cycle, file a few bugs on each or 2) accept fewer cycles, file more bugs per cycle. Personally, I find the latter to be the best way to make more money, have more satisfaction in my work and increase my tester rating. Why? Because I can increase the quality of my work using this approach.

Giving myself more time on a product allows me to be methodical. I might use a few different approaches depending on the type of product.

Deep, power user scenarios. I develop a goal in mind. A recent cycle I was on had a great example of this – you are a soccer mom and you need to equip your child for the upcoming season. This is going to yield the issues that are going to affect the target audience of the client. This approach can definitely yield high value bugs because you will be able to tell the client what is going to drive those target customers away.

Break down the app into areas and dig deep. This is the approach I use when it is a newer, more unfamiliar application. I might spend a few hours in settings making sure each setting combination is functioning properly; or trying a variety of shopping cart, wishlist, checkout scenarios; or product customization. The key is not just spot checking to see if the area is functioning, but to really stretch the code and make sure all variables have been covered.

Going down the rabbit hole. This is a less precise, more intuitive path where I just start investigating the parts of the application that I find interesting and following them as far as I can take them. If I really love the app or find it to be fun to use, this is the approach I will take. You have to be careful with this approach because you can “waste” a lot of time.

The key to all of these approaches is TIME. You cannot test in this deep manner if you do not have time and you cannot have time if you have 5-15 active cycles clamoring for your attention.

(Note from Lucas)
When you accept a new cycle, you are expected to thoroughly read the scope and instructions, read through the known bug list, review any other attached documents, and catch up on any chat posts. Then you have to set up your testing environment. You have to install the app, create an account, configure your proxy, etc. These start-up activities can be quite time consuming. Keeping your active cycles low allows you to spend less time getting ready to test, and more time testing.

Know the status of a project (Allyson Burk)

In general, clients are going to value bugs differently depending on the point in the development cycle they are on. It is important to pay attention to clues about where the client is in development when searching for high value bugs. This can be a moving target depending on the methodology used, agile vs. waterfall for example, but I think for this conversation we can think in terms of early, middle and late in the development cycle.

Early in the development cycle, you can imagine that content related bugs are not going to carry huge value. The look and feel may still be in development, the final copy is likely not completed and images may not have been delivered. The client is rather going to be more focused on core functionality. They need to make sure the major functionality is there and working properly.

Midway through the development cycle, functionality is still going to be the focus, but content starts to be more important. If ever there was a time to value spelling/grammar bugs, this would be it. Most copy has to get locked down for legal/translation/marketing/etc. so the client may be looking to make sure this is completely clean before shipping it off for various approvals.

Late in the development cycle, stability and polish are key. Everything needs to be functioning at this time and the application needs to have a minimum of crashing/blocking issues. Many times in this last stretch before release of a product, the client might only be interested in High or Critical issues. The code will be fairly locked down at this point. The client will often not want to risk fixes that might break other functionality, so they are really going to be interested only in bugs that are of such severity to make the app unusable.

As uTesters, I think the trickiest aspect of this is knowing what phase of the development cycle the client is on. Logic might dictate that if you are on the first cycle for a new client that they would be early in the development cycle. I’d actually venture a guess and say that is actually almost never the case given my experience. I’d say we are usually brought in after the code is pretty stable and the content is beginning to be finished… somewhere in the mid stages.

But how can we know with more certainty?

Sometimes, this is as easy as reading the overview and paying attention to context clues. The PM might explicitly state, this is the first testable build of this product (early) or this is the release candidate (late). There may be things excluded from the scope like images (early to mid). There may be a very long known issues list (mid to late) or no known issues at all (early or late – HA this is a tricky one! They may clear all known issues for the later builds in order to make sure there has been no code regression before shipping the product out).

In the end, we will have to rely on the information provided and forge ahead. There is also never any harm, if you feel that there is no clear focus provided, to ask the question: Is there anything in particular the client is wanting us to focus on at this time? You might be refreshed at what avenues of testing that will open up for you.

Writing High-Value Bug Reports

Report bugs, not symptoms (Lucas Dargis)

The other day I was the TTL of a cycle and one of the features in scope was an account creation screen. The user was required to enter several pieces of information including their Address. Two different testers report these two bugs:

Bug 1 – Address field allows “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Bug 2 – Address field allows “!@#$%^&*()_+”

I see this type of thing all the time, so I know some of you saying “What’s wrong with that?”. The problem is both of these testers reported different symptoms of the same bug. If they had taken some time to do further investigation into the Address field, they would have realized that they hadn’t found a specific input that made it past the validation. They would have learned that the real issue was the Address field wasn’t being validated at all. The user could have entered anything (or nothing) and the system would have accepted it.

Whenever I encounter a bug, I spend a significant amount of time testing all around it, trying different inputs and different sequences of events until I  understand the root cause and all of its symptoms. This is where testers can show their worth. It’s easy to click on something and then report on the results, but it takes a much stronger skill set to be able to investigate potential bugs and then provide a valuable report of your findings. Customers can see this effort and they usually reward it.

Sell Your Bugs’s Prominence (Lucas Dargis)

If a bug is easy to find, it is usually more valuable then if it was an edge-case bug and it was unlikely that anyone would find it. Identifying your bug and reproduction steps is just the first step. The best testers know that how their bug report is written can affect how the customer views it’s prominence (how easy it is to find). The best testers keep their bug reports focused and their steps limited to the critical path. That means you should only list the specific actions needed to trigger the bug.

There is a problem with this approach. Often, bugs are hidden deep within the application and you might feel that you need to explain how you arrived at the bug. The way I get around this concern is to list “Prerequisite” steps at the top of the “Actions Performed” where I describe the starting state of the application.


Bug Title: Shopping Cart – Items added to the cart are not saved
1. Go to the URL
2. Click on create new account
3. Enter a valid username
4. Enter and password
5. Click “Submit”
6. Log into the system with your account
7. Search for an item
8. Select the item
9. Add the item to my cart
10. View your shopping cart

The above report lists the steps from beginning to end, but it is fairly long and gives the impression that a user would have to do a series of very specific steps in order to find the bug. Instead, you should only list the steps that are directly related to the bug. Let’s see what that would look like.

Bug Title: Shopping Cart – Items added to the cart are not saved
Starting state – User is logged into the application and viewing the details page for a product

1. Add the item to my cart
2. View the shopping cart

Explaining the starting state at the top of the report allows us to remove 8 steps. Now, because only the steps that specifically cause the bug are listed, this bug seems much more prominent and the report does a better job of highlighting the value of the bug. This is an oversimplified example but I hope you understand the point.

This is just one tip on how to sell your bug. This technique is called “Bug Advocacy” and is something ever tester should learn. To learn more about Bug Advocacy, here is a fantastic paper written by Cem Kaner:

I want to thank Allyson for her contributions to this article. Please feel free to post questions, comments or challenges to anything we’ve written. Hopefully these ideas will prove useful to you in your quest for those high-value bugs.

Additional Resources

Be Creative: Bug-Hunting Tips from a Gold uTester (By Amit Kulkarni) – … ld-uTester

How To Write the Perfect (uTest) Bug Report (by Rebecca Showerman and Nikki Sedgwick)- … t/2012/06/

How to Write a Good Bug Report (By Sunil Sidhwani) –

When a Bug is Not a Bug – Bugs vs Feedback (By Aaron Weintrob) –

Bug Reporting 101 (By Joseph Ours) – … orting-101

2012 Year In Review

2012 was a career year for me. For the past 8 years I’ve just had a job. I didn’t really enjoy what I was doing and didn’t put much thought into how I could or should develop my career. Things changed quickly early in the year as several opportunities came together. Here are a few of those highlights:

New Jobs
I found the best job I’ve ever had, working as the principle tester at a semiconductor manufacturer. Before I arrived, there was no formal testing in the IT department. I was tasked with introducing testing in one group and then over time, grow it throughout the organization. I’ve been able to test the new “Flagship” application which is a few weeks away from our first Release. So far we have received rave reviews on all aspects of the application and the development process.

I was able to expand my testing skills by learning the nuances of SPA (single page application) testing. This has been a fun and challenging experience, mostly because it isn’t done much yet so there few resources out there geared specifically toward SPA testing.

I was also able to dabble in automation testing for SPAs. Since this type of application is client-side heavy, the true value comes from exercising it through the browser. Many automation solutions and supporters prefer testing the code directly (via APIs or a test harnesses), bypassing the browser. That has made this learning process more of a struggle for me then I had expected.

If you follow my blog at all you’ll know I’m also a uTest fan boy and freelance tester. I’ve already wrote a blog post about my uTest experiences this year, so I’ll just give an updated summary:

  • Team Test Lead
  • Became a solid iOS tester
  • Worked with and learned from testers all over the world
  • 200 cycles/425 bugs
  • 94% bug approval rate/44% high-value rate
  • Gold Rated (99.75%)

Improved Online Presence
One of the most valuable and educational aspects of this year was my decision to join and contribute to the testing community. I started this blog to chronicle my career development. I only found the time for 11 posts but I was able to post regularly… well kind of.

I spent most of my time focused on the uTest community. I became a uMentor, a forum moderator and one of the most active forum members. My topics have generated hundreds of responses and over 20,000 views. I’m now seeing more and more new uTesters step up and contribute to the growth of the forum and the uTest community which is fantastic!

I was also featured on the uTest blog a few times:

I have learned so much from writing about testing, teaching new testers, and learning from others. I’d say that focusing on developing my online presence has had the largest impact in my growth as a professional tester.

Scrum Mastery
In addition to testing, I’m also extremely interested in software development processes and improving efficiency, specifically the Scrum development framework. Since I had a few years of Scrum experience, I volunteered to be a Scrum Master for the “flagship” product I mentioned above. As word of that project’s success got around, I became a champion for Scrum in our organization. I was able to coach POs, Developers, Customers, and Managers and am currently Scrum Mastering 2 projects. I was asked to give an “Introduction to Scrum” presentation to our department during one of our Lunch & Learn sessions and since then one group has started their own project using Scrum.

To complement and improve my real-world experiences, I attended a Scrum Master course and then passed both the Scrum Alliance and Scrum Master certifications.

So cheers 2012; you’ve been swell. I look forward to meeting you 2013. I know you have many fun and challenging experiences in store.